Counterfeit money found

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The Steamboat Springs Police Department is asking residents to be on the look out for counterfeit bills after local banks found three fake $100 bills.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, two banks -- First National Bank of Steamboat Springs and Community First Bank -- discovered the bills, Steamboat Springs Police Capt. Joel Rae said.

The bills were imitations of new-style $100 bills, and two were thought to have been used at the Steamboat Yacht Club, Rae said. The bills looked as if they came from the same printing press, and Rae suspected they entered the community in the past week.

More could be in circulation, Rae said, and he warns residents, especially those who handle money regularly, to be on the look out for counterfeit bills.

"We want anybody handling money to be aware there is fake money out there ... being passed and to help us catch them," Rae said.

Rae advised that if someone passes money that is suspected to be fake, the receiver should not return the money, but should delay the person who used it as long as possible and try to get information about or a description of that person. He also said the receiver should call the police and try to limit handling the money because fingerprints can be lifted from the bill. Rae suggests putting the bills in an envelope.

The U.S. Secret Service has recommendations for detecting counterfeit money on its Web site, www.secretservice.gov, under the link, "Know Your Money." The Web site notes that the portrait on a genuine bill appears lifelike and stands out distinctly from the background. A counterfeit portrait is usually lifeless and flat. Details merge into the background, which is often too dark or mottled.

The Federal Reserve and treasury seals also can be indicators. On genuine bills, the sawtooth points on the seals are clear, distinct and sharp. The counterfeit seals may have uneven, blunt or broken sawtooth points.

The fine lines in the border of a genuine bill are clear and unbroken, and on counterfeit bills, the lines can be in the outer margins, and the scrollwork may be blurred and indistinct.

Serial numbers also can be examined. Genuine bills have numbers that are evenly spaced and printed in the same ink color as the treasury seal.

The paper is another indication. Genuine currency has tiny red and blue fibers embedded throughout the paper. Often, counterfeiters try to simulate the fibers by printing tiny red and blue lines on their paper, but close inspection shows that the lines are printed on the surface and are not embedded in the paper. It is illegal to reproduce the distinctive paper used in the manufacturing of U.S. currency.

The newer bills, like the counterfeit ones used in Steamboat, were supposed to be harder to counterfeit, Rae said.

"It is harder to counterfeit, but it obviously isn't any easier to catch. There is a lot more security features in them. I guess it is a matter of businesses and people handling money and knowing what those security features are."

Last February, the police were aware of counterfeit $5 bills that were circulating in town but have not had any reports since then. If someone is given a counterfeit bill and unknowingly passes it on, the next place may not accept it, and the police will seize the money, Rae said.

"That person may be out of that $100. It is always a good idea for a person, when they get handed cash, to check," Rae said.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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